Criticism, or Intolerant Persecution?

Norman Hovland

Jehovah's Witnesses like to think of themselves as uncompromising when it comes to truth. During their history they have used literally miles and miles of articles exposing the "errors" of all the Christian churches. The quote below explains quite well how they would like everyone else to view their incessant criticism of other religions:

"Yes, the Bible message they declare does expose error, but like the apostle Paul they ask: 'Have we become your enemies because we tell you the truth?' (Galatians 4:16)" (Watchtower, March 1, 1985, p. 8)

But is this the view they themselves take when the Watchtower Society is subjected to criticism? Do they consider people who tell them the truth about their own organization enemies? Let us find out.

Some organizations don't seem to be able to exist without an archenemy. An opponent, on which they can heap scorn and blame for all the bad that happens in the world. Someone they can demonize, judge and condemn creating a contrast to themselves in order for them to look better. This is usually achieved by focusing on the enemies' worst sides and at the same time engaging in self-praise, thus demonstrating the striking contrasts between "false" and "true" religion.

The Watchtower Society has chosen the Catholic Church as their archenemy. (Currently the so-called "apostates" seem to have taken over this role.) The Watchtower has up through the years demonized and heaped scorn on the Catholic Church to an extent one would hardly think possible. It has been blamed for virtually all the bad things that have happened in the world the last 1800 years. At the same time the Watchtower has engaged in the most shameless self-glorification imaginable. Their megalomania doesn't seem to have any limit. They are for example "taking care of God's interests on earth". The mere thought that God should need some totally insignificant human organization to take care of his interests is of course both ridiculous and presumptuous.

When it comes to articles bashing the Catholics, the Watchtower literature is an extremely rich source. For over hundred years they have written about the horrible intolerance and abuse showed by the Church during the middle ages. They have to talk about the Middle Ages and of course ignore the changes the Church has undergone since then. The incredible thing is that they even criticize the Church for having abandoned one of their middle age practices.

Something that seem to gall the Watchtower more than anything is the dogma of the Pope being the Representative of Christ, and that no one can be saved if they don't belong to the Church (sounds familiar, eh?). Because of this claim the Watchtower quite rightfully points out that anyone making such bold claims must accept to be put under close scrutiny and be prepared to be criticized.

"The Catholic Church occupies a very significant position in the world and claims to be the way of salvation for hundreds of millions of people. Any organization that assumes that position should be willing to submit to scrutiny and criticism." (Awake! August 22, 1984, p. 28)

No fair-minded person would object to this argument. It is of course only reasonable that anyone making claims like this must accept scrutiny and criticism. As we know the Watchtower makes an almost identical claim:

"For one thing, Jesus' anointed followers, who are part of Jehovah's earthly organization, are "ambassadors substituting for Christ." [...] Mind you, they are not ambassadors and envoys of a mere human government and of sinful rulers. They represent Jehovah, his exalted spirit king Jesus Christ and the mighty kingdom of God. What an inestimable privilege! Of course, to serve and praise the Universal Sovereign, one must associate with the organization of Jehovah's Christian witnesses. Consider, too, the fact that Jehovah's organization alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or active force. (Zech. 4:6) Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book." (Watchtower, July 1, 1973, pp. 401, 402)

As we can see the Watchtower leaders claim to "represent Jehovah" and Christ, much like the Pope does. They are also the only ones who are lead by holy spirit and the only ones who understand the Bible. Pretty substantial claims, and if true an organization like this would of course welcome scrutiny and investigations, they would of course not have anything to fear, having the almighty on their side.

Earlier this immense power and privilege was even in the hands of one person. Imagine that, old Joe "Booze" Rutherford, that guy was really and literally full of "spirit":

"The Theocracy is the promised administration of earth's affairs by Jehovah God... That Theocracy is now functioning in the earth. The Theocracy is at present administered by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of which Judge Rutherford is the president and general manager." (Consolation, September 4, 1940, s. 25).

No wonder the Watchtower is so preoccupied with the Catholic Church; they really are the only competition. But remember the principle, which was so excellently expressed by the Awake!, that anybody making such claims should be "willing to submit to scrutiny and criticism."

The Watchtower does, as documented, claim to be the only way to salvation for all human beings today. Yet somehow they are not at all willing to submit to scrutiny and criticism. This "rule" does simply not apply to them. On the contrary, it is very wrong to criticize the Watchtower. It is even worse! It is rebellion against God. What strange reasoning.

"So important is it never to raise the voice in bitter criticism of the Lord's organization or its appointed representatives. Jehovah is the omniscient Judge before whom accounting must be made for these and other unprofitable sayings. -- Matthew 12:36, 37; Leviticus 19:16; Jude 8. Those who despise Jehovah's teaching include individuals who criticize and complain about Jehovah's clean organization and its rules for maintaining peace and good order. There is only a fine line of demarcation between such and those who are outright rebels." (Watchtower, May 15, 1984, p. 17)

Some times the incredible paranoia and siege mentality of the Watchtower is displayed on no uncertain manner when they let us have a glimpse of their black and white world, where the big universal conspiracy is unfolding:

"The faith of Jehovah's Witnesses is under attack from all sides -- by the clergy of Christendom who hate the Kingdom message we take from house to house, by apostates who collaborate with Christendom's clergy, by medical authorities who want to impose blood transfusions on us and our children, by atheistic scientists who reject belief in God and the creation, and by those who try to force us to compromise our neutrality. All this opposition is orchestrated by Satan". (Watchtower, December 1, 1989, p. 12)

As usual we are forced to draw the conclusion that all these principles only apply to others, not to the Watchtower itself. Other Churches should subject themselves to criticism by the Watchtower, it is however completely improper for anyone to expect the same from them. Only unquestioning obedience is acceptable to Brooklyn:

"At times there are heard from immature ones slighting remarks, careless talk or outright criticism of the Society's operations. Such is outright lack of respect for the means Jehovah is remarkably using to perform his will in this pre-Armageddon time. Truly the Society as directed by God's Holy Spirit merits our deepest respect and wholehearted obedience." (Watchtower, July 15, 1960, p. 444)

When someone criticizes the Watchtower this can conveniently be called something else. That sounds so much better. The magic word is persecution. If criticism is synonymous with persecution, then the Watchtower must have horribly persecuted the Catholic Church for over hundred years now. Of course not, silly! When the Watchtower does that it isn't called persecution, then the correct term is criticism. Lost are you? Well let us see how elegantly the Watchtower explains this:

"Then it raised the question: "Is the exposing of false religions a persecution of their adherents? Is it un-Christian bigotry?" The answer was: "No; otherwise Jesus Christ was a bigoted persecutor of the Jews [...] This does not mean that individuals are attacked but, rather, the system that enslaves them." (Watchtower, April 1, 1988, pp. 24, 25)

When the Watchtower persecutes, oops, criticizes the Churches this is of course dictated by the best of motives:

"We have a kind and loving interest in people of all religions, but when their religious beliefs and practices are false and merit God's disapproval, it is showing love to bring this to their attention by exposing falsehood. [...] We follow in Jesus' footsteps by drawing attention to what God's Word says, which can be to the everlasting benefit of those who will hear." (Awake! July 8, 1988, p. 28)

Well, now we know. If you are convinced you are dealing with a false religion then it is ok. But now we also know that all criticism of the Watchtower is bitter persecution by evil people and the Devil is behind it, this is of course in stark contrast to the loving concern which the Watchtower shows when they are exposing falsehood in the Churches. You can say what you want, but the guys in Brooklyn really do know how to manipulate the language.

At the beginning I mentioned the Watchtower accusations against the Catholic Church for their intolerance against independently thinking people during the middle ages.

Let us take a look at how well this is done in the Watchtower literature by this example:

"Catholic Intolerance
Catholic canon law states: "Most firmly hold and in no way doubt that every heretic or schismatic is to have part with the Devil and his angels in the flames of eternal fire, unless before the end of his life he be incorporated with, and restored to the Catholic Church."" (Awake! November 8, 1983, pp. 4, 5)

Then compare the above statement from Catholic law, which the Awake! magazine clearly and rightly identifies as intolerant, with this one:

"Apostates of the apostles' day and their modern counterparts are not represented by the "weeds." Yet the Bible shows that such apostates are "not of our sort," have God's disapproval and should be shunned by loyal Christians. Any who apostatize and do not repent by the end of this system of things will experience the same fate as the "weeds," being "burned with fire" or destroyed completely." (Watchtower, March 1, 1984, p. 31)

When the Catholic Church stated that anybody who dies without belonging to the Church would be lost, it is intolerance. But somehow we don't see that term used anywhere when "Watchtower law" states exactly the same, why?

Some times this incredible double standard and juggling with words becomes almost unbelievable, like in this next example:

"No one was free to worship as he pleased or to express opinions conflicting with those of the clergy. This clerical intolerance created a climate of fear throughout Europe." (Watchtower, September 1, 1989, p. 3)

Quite correctly the Watchtower states that in a situation where it is prohibited to express opinions conflicting with religious leaders like the clergy, this is a clear manifestation of INTOLERANCE!

Then read this:

"Beware of those who try to put forward their own contrary opinions." (The Watchtower, March 15, 1986, p. 17)

"Avoid Independent Thinking". (The Watchtower, January 15, 1983, p. 22)

"How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God's visible organization." (The Watchtower, January 15, 1983, p. 22)

"Fight Against Independent Thinking". (The Watchtower, January 15, 1983, p. 27)

Why criticize the Church for something it practiced in the Middle Ages, when the Watchtower actually practices exactly the same intolerance in our days?

Why was it intolerant when the clergy in the Middle Ages denied people the right to express opinions contrary to the clergy's, but quite all right to order the Witnesses today to AVOID independent thought, yes, even FIGHT against it? Why is it necessary to "BEWARE" of those having "contrary opinions"?

What's the difference? Why is this only intolerance when Catholics and others do it? Why is this seemingly all right when the Watchtower does it? Is it because most Churches have stopped terrorizing and persecuting independently thinking people, the reason why the Watchtower hates them so much? Where else but in the Watchtower Society do we find such Middle Ages thinking today?

"In the Middle Ages, clergy rule meant the destruction of personal liberties." (The Watchtower, September 1, 1989, p. 3)

Unfortunately in 1999, the Witnesses have to sneak around on H2O hiding their identity from their leaders because of the intolerance of the Watchtower "clergy". In 1999 it means loss and destruction of personal liberties, yes -- even life, because of the Society's intolerance.

Just like the clergy in the Middle Ages, the Society tries to:

"root out individuals who dared to hold different views." (The Watchtower, September 1, 1989, p. 3)

Awake! magazine asks:

"'But surely the world has outgrown such intolerance,' some might reason." (Awake! November 8, 1983, pp. 3, 4)

Yes indeed, what does history show us now in 1999? Has the world outgrown such intolerance in our time? Is there really a religious organization today, where it is prohibited to have different views from the leaders, without being subjected to Star Chamber courts, expelled and shunned? Does it really exist religious societies today where the leaders have such fear of criticism that members are forbidden to read certain literature and talk to certain people? Does such gross intolerance exist today? Oh yes, it does. One such society is known as the WTBTS and its members are known as Jehovah's Witnesses.